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The "Beauty" of Price continues

By Henry Carrigan, December 2014

Before Ray Price died - just over one year ago, on Dec. 16, 2013 - he told his wife, Janie, that she would have to carry on his legacy by going out, promoting the album that he had just recorded, "Beauty Is…," and visiting with his legions of fans. He told me, Janie says, "you're gonna be the closest thing to me that people are going to want to reach out to."

Janie Price, who married the singer on June 11, 1970, started going out on the road to promote "Beauty Is…" and to visit with Ray's fans in April 2014. Ever since, she's been on the road almost nonstop. "It's given me a reason for getting up in the morning."

When she started out, though, she wasn't quite prepared for the outpouring of love and admiration with which she met every step of the way.

Price started out at Hastings in Tyler, Texas, on April 15; "we started in the morning, and the fans just kept coming and coming," she says. "The same thing happened that same afternoon when we went to the Cracker Barrel. I felt like I was at a family reunion; there was something about those fans. I've been married to Ray for 43 ˝ years, and I understood more about him that day, how much a part of these people's lives Ray was and how important they were to him."

Janie Price talks with Eddie Stubbs on WSM

Earlier this month, in the week before the anniversary of her husband's death, Price spent a few days in Nashville, talking to reporters and taping television and radio shows. "I've taped the Country Family Reunion over at Larry's Country Diner; 30 of Ray's old friends, folks like Jeannie Seely and John Conlee, all told a story about Ray and sang one of his songs." A five-DVD set of that celebration of Ray Price's life will soon be available from the Country Family Reunion web site. Price also appeared as Mike Huckabee's guest.

When asked Janie Price about Ray Price's most memorable traits, she says, "he's not a person to make a quick decision about anything. Ray was a quiet man, but he would walk into a room, and he would fill that whole room up; that's just the kind of commanding presence he had, even though he was always shy."

"Ray loved cooking: one of his favorite meals was pork chops, turnip greens and cornbread. He loved to garden, and we always had a garden; he would go out there and pick the vegetables, and we'd can them. He planted an orchard when he found out he had cancer, and now those trees are full of fruit. You know, Ray never gave up on anything."

In November 2012, Ray Price revealed to the world in that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, but during that year he called his friend and producer Fred Foster and told Foster: "I think I have one album left in me, and I want you to do it with me."

Both Vince Gill and Martina McBride jumped at the chance to record with Price, and although they never got to record with him live in the studio, the two stars recorded their harmony parts and sent them in. "Vince said," says Janie, "that he learned how to sing harmony by listening to Ray Price records; I want to blend in with Ray Price."

According to Foster, "Ray Price sang every song from beginning to end in one take."

What is Ray Price's legacy to country music? If Ray Price were just starting out today, would he get a record deal? "He was one of the founding fathers of this industry we call traditional country music," says Janie Price. "He moved country from the old honky tonk sound to reach people who might never have listened to country music in the first place. All of these young artists will never know - even though they should - the debt they owe to Ray Price."

"You know he and Blake Shelton had that little argument about country music; well, Blake's momma set her son straight about Ray's contribution to country music, and after that, Blake and Ray got along just fine." Ray used to say, "I just want to come out and sing and for people to listen. Country music is America's music."

Janie Price makes clear how much her husband loved life: "He didn't want to die; he loved life. I saw him submit to the will of God. ‘Honey,' he said, ‘I'm only going over to cross over.' He had his clear thinking until the day he died."

"He loved his fans," Janie says. "I want future generations to be introduced to his music; I want his fans to know that they were the most important things to him. I'm doing this for the people who have supported me all my life," she says.